A 40th Birthday Filled with Redemption, Hope, and Gratitude
For the majority of my 30’s, with every birthday that added a number to my age, came a sadness of another year passed in a sinking ship. A life once filled with promise and potential falling further and further into the dark abyss of addiction. My birthdays as an addict, rather than a cause for celebration, were just another reminder of a life I continued to waste. My life was a reflection of pain, the pain I suffered, the pain I caused, the pain I continued to somehow endure. I often wondered if I would ever see my 40th birthday, or if I even wanted to? My life felt full of impending doom, continuing to get worse and further removed from the boy that was once filled with dreams and wonder for what would become of his life. Something happened along the way, however, and as I write these words mere days from turning 40, my life is again filled with dreams and goals, with added drive and ambition to help those struggling as I once did.
The dread that used to accompany the phoney smiles and pleasantries on birthdays has been replaced by redemption, hope, and pride. The tensions with my family that we would attempt, often unsuccessfully, to set aside for one day, are no longer present. The relationships I have with my friends and co-workers, once filled with resentments, jealousy, and envy, are sincere, healthy, and peaceful. My daily routine, which used to entail the constant stress of finding the next fix, fighting off the inevitable symptoms of painful withdrawal, consistently compromising my morals in the process, has been replaced by a peaceful existence filled with fulfilling work and healthy relationships. The way I go about my day, which used to involve constant misery sprinkled with momentary seconds of relief, now allows me to carry myself with my head held high and a smile on my face, without living in regret for my decisions and actions.
“Amazingly, perhaps miraculously, my 40th birthday is not accompanied by the thoughts of a man past the prime of his life, wondering where the time went and how my life spiraled into the depths of despair.”
Amazingly, perhaps miraculously, my 40th birthday is not accompanied by the thoughts of a man past the prime of his life, wondering where the time went and how my life spiralled into the depths of despair. Instead, I feel younger than I have in years, filled with wonder and excitement, like my life is just getting started. My 38th birthday ended up being the last one I would spend in the misery of addiction. Last year I was well on my way to building the life I have now, doing everything necessary to ensure the changes I had made to my life would have an impact on the years to come. This birthday approaching feels different than the last, however, as I have subsequently grown more as a man in all aspects of my life than I once dreamed possible. My life as an addict was filled with irresponsibility, self-loathing, self-pity, sadness, and despair. I hated who I had become, I hated feeling trapped in a life I never asked for, and I hated birthdays for all those reasons.
Not this year. In a few days, I get to celebrate my 40th birthday as a culmination of the hard work and the commitment I made to a better life. That being said, I would not be here without all the help I had along the way. That starts with my mom and dad, my brother and sister, for never giving up on me and doing everything in their power to see a better future for me when I could not. Their unwavering love towards an addict who gave them every reason to give up is why I am here today. The love and gratitude I have towards my family for never giving up on me and continuing to encourage me to find a better path for my life is impossible to put into words. To my friends and co-workers who know who you are, thank you for being there every step of the way on this journey. I work with some of the best people I have ever known, whose selfless, caring approach and determinism in helping our students navigate their quests for a drug-free life has made it a joy to come to work every day and be a part of.
To anyone still struggling with addiction and finding it difficult to celebrate a birthday like I once did, I hope this story finds you and gives you the hope and the strength to reach out for help. If there is one thing I have realized with my own experience and working in this field, it is that it does not matter what number is connected to your next birthday, there is always a chance to for it to be accompanied with a fresh start and a new outlook on life. A story of redemption and hope used to be nothing but a fairy tale to me, something in the movies or in sports but far removed from real life. Now that I have lived it, I want nothing more than to spread that hope so others can find their own story of redemption.